Sometimes, it can be tough for people to advocate for themselves. Lakia Hanson has become an expert at asking for what she needs, but that wasn’t always the case. 

The Disability Services Team at Northcentral Technical College works with students, faculty and staff to make sure everyone has equal access to programs, services and activities  

Lakia has attention deficit/hyperactive disorder (ADHD), and she utilizes some of the services available. With the help of advisors, Disability Services, Student Life, the Academic Resource Center and her own determination and hard work, Lakia has found success in her program.  

The most important thing she has learned, though, is that she deserves to be at NTC.  

Her path to success was not linear, as few ever are. Lakia grew up in a single parent family, and with six children to feed, her mom worked long hours to provide for them. She struggled to stay on top of assignments in school but did not receive any services that would have helped her.  

“People have these ideas about disabilities, and I feel like I’m not the picture of that,” she said. “I was very much ashamed of the fact that I couldn’t just be organized and couldn’t just turn in the work.”  

By the time she reached high school, Lakia was so ashamed of feeling like she was letting everyone down, including herself, she stopped going to school. Eventually, she began attending NTC’s alternative high school.  

For the first time, things were different for Lakia.  

“It was one of the first times a teacher actually cared whether I was there or not,” she said. “It didn’t matter if I was neurotypical or disabled because the way they set things up make it possible for anyone to succeed.”  

While at the alternative high school, in addition to earning her diploma, she was also able to become a certified nursing assistant (CNA). Staff at NTC helped her get a job as a CNA, working with dementia and hospice patients.  

“I don’t think the teachers at the alternative high school realize how much of a difference they really make,” Lakia said.  

She worked as a CNA for a while but later moved to Michigan, which has different licensing requirements. While in Michigan, she worked in a restaurant. She tried to go back to school, but the timing wasn’t right, and her children were her first priority. She tried a couple of times after that, but it never worked out.  

After a few years, she moved back to the Wausau area, and after going through struggles in her personal life, she decided it was time to go back to school.  

“Sometimes you don’t realize something you thought would ruin your life could be exactly what you needed to set you on the right path,” Lakia said.  

This time, going back to school was going to be different. The first thing she did was go to the Disability Services Center because she knew she would need support, and she was confident enough in herself to ask for help.  

Lakia has accommodations that allow her to complete work at her own pace, without the pressure of meeting set deadlines. She can complete multiple assignments some weeks and few or no assignments other weeks and still be successful in her program.  

“It’s been awesome,” she said. “I have the time to decide what works for me.”  

Lakia is studying to become a paralegal, a decision that was inspired by her time as a part of the Big Brothers Big Sisters. Her Big Sister became a lawyer, and they have stayed friends.  

“She is someone I’ve admired my entire life,” Lakia said. “She was always that voice in the background saying I could do it.” 

Students at NTC have access to many resources, and Lakia takes advantage of that, utilizing her advisors, the Disability Services team, the Academic Resource Center, the library and student life. The countless individuals invested in her success help keep Lakia accountable, which helps push her to succeed.  

“It’s the first time I’ve been excited about school,” she said. “The light switch just went on. I have a lot of support, and it has given me confidence.” 

Lakia said she had not expected so many people to care, which has helped her to persevere through any struggles she has faced. She said staff have an excellent understanding of the services available, and even if they don’t know the answer to a question, they will work hard to find someone who does.  

“I think there is something unique about NTC; it’s structured less like an organization and more like a community,” she said. “They actually care if I’m successful here.” 

Lakia said for students like her, who come from a difficult background, who have a disability, who have tried to go back to school previously and failed, can often feel like they don’t belong. But everyone who wishes to be at NTC belongs.  

“The biggest thing I’ve learned is that I do deserve to be here,” she said. “You should never be afraid to try again. Everyone deserves access to an education.”